I’ve yet to read any of David Foster Wallace’s books but I’ve owned “Infinite Jest” for a while. I bought it a couple of years ago after reading a section from it about suicide. Wallace gets it, or rather he got it, see he killed himself and that’s exactly the reason I know I can trust his words. I find reading unbearable due to my OCD. It’s a horrible experience. However, sometimes I can ingest sections of a writer’s writing, and whilst i’d rather be reading whole books, it’s better than nothing and it’s what I’ve done with David Foster Wallace. Rather than spam quotes of his I thought I’d put a few of my favourites in one post.
- “Am I a good person? Deep down, do I even really want to be a good person, or do I only want to seem like a good person so that people (including myself) will approve of me? Is there a difference? How do I ever actually know whether I’m bullshitting myself, morally speaking?”
- “The fraudulence paradox was that the more time and effort you put into trying to appear impressive or attractive to other people, the less impressive or attractive you felt inside — you were a fraud. And the more of a fraud you felt like, the harder you tried to convey an impressive or likable image of yourself so that other people wouldn’t find out what a hollow, fraudulent person you really were.”
- “The depressed person was in terrible and unceasing emotional pain, and the impossibility of sharing or articulating this pain was itself a component of the pain and a contributing factor in its essential horror. Despairing, then, of describing the emotional pain itself, the depressed person hoped at least to be able to express something of its context, its shape and texture, as it were-by recounting circumstances related to its etiology.”
- “I am now 33 years old, and it feels like much time has passed and is passing faster and faster every day. Day to day I have to make all sorts of choices about what is good and important and fun, and then I have to live with the forfeiture of all the other options those choices foreclose. And I’m starting to see how as time gains momentum my choices will narrow and their foreclosures multiply exponentially until I arrive at some point on some branch of all life’s sumptuous branching complexity at which I am finally locked in and stuck on one path and time speeds me through stages of stasis and atrophy and decay until I go down for the third time, all struggle for naught, drowned by time. It is dreadful. But since it’s my own choices that’ll lock me in, it seems unavoidable—if I want to be any kind of grownup, I have to make choices and regret foreclosures and try to live with them.”
- “Is it possible really to love other people? If I’m lonely and in pain, everyone outside me is potential relief—I need them. But can you really love what you need so badly? Isn’t a big part of love caring more about what the other person needs? How am I supposed to subordinate my own overwhelming need to somebody else’s needs that I can’t even feel directly? And yet if I can’t do this, I’m damned to loneliness, which I definitely don’t want … so I’m back at trying to overcome my selfishness for self-interested reasons.”
- “The trick to this solution is that you’d have to be 100% honest. Meaning not just sincere but almost naked. Worse than naked - more like unarmed. Defenseless. ‘This thing I feel, I can’t name it straight out but it seems important, do you feel it too?’ - this sort of direct question is not for the squeamish. For one thing, it’s perilously close to “Do you like me? Please like me,” which you know quite well that 99% of all interhuman manipulation and bullshit gamesmanship that goes on goes on precisely because the idea of saying this sort of thing straight out is regarded as somehow obscene. In fact one of the very last few interpersonal taboos we have is kind of obscenely naked direct interrogation of somebody else.”
Typically, the only person who gets me is dead, but I’m thankful his words are still very much alive.